Srinagar: The ‘Downtown’ area of Srinagar’s Jammu & Kashmir, considered culturally rich is now housing a museum of heritage and traditions with the opening of a ‘The Heritage Home’- Bait-ul-Meeras. To resuscitate and educate the next generation about the rich heritage, art and craft of the Valley, a century-old building in the Aali Kadal neighbourhood of Srinagar have been converted into an art centre and a museum. This project is run by Help Foundation, a local NGO which aims to preserve the culture and heritage of Valley. The four-story historical building showcases the Valley’s unique architectural style. Numerous objects from more than a century ago are on display, including jewellery, apparel, crafts, traditional dresses, cutlery, and much more. The curators say they ‘spent over a year assembling these artefacts for the exhibit’.
While speaking to Zee, the craft consultant at the Centre Nazir Ahmad credited the Chairperson of Help Nighat Shafi for the endeavour and said, “The establishment of Bait Ul Meeras Art and Culture Centre is a well-planned step to inform and educate the young generation about our rich legacy and heritage of Valley. Our sole purpose in coming here is to educate valley children about the wonderful legacy we have, who we were and what we had thus brought them close to the valley’s past.”
To add to the legacy display, Bait ul Meeras encourages people to donate or display their heritage artefact collections. The team at Bait ul Meeras is constantly on the lookout for artefacts to display in the gallery.
“Alongside the display of historical artefacts here; we also gave space to Kashmiri artisans who manufacture carpets, shawls, and pottery. A large network of craftsmen is working with us, particularly the women who weave Pashmina shawls and other goods that we eventually offer at our retail shop, Shehjar, thereby avoiding the middlemen system to help people generate more income,” said Rumaisa Malik Coordinator.
These priceless artefacts preserved in the museum are centuries old and have significant historical significance for visitors.
According to Mushtaq Ahmad Aga, 62, a local, the Help Foundation’s action is a socially relevant initiative. “I appreciate how they have exhibited our culture and legacy for the younger generation by using this old edifice in such a way that adds to its value. While they are here, tourists can also learn a lot about the history and culture of the valley which is enjoyable”, said Mushtaq.
This majestic structure, with more than a hundred rooms, was built in 1925 by a local businessman named Ram Ju Koul who was connected to Maharaja Hari Singh. After the Maharaja’s rule ended in 1947, the Wani family bought it, now owned by Farooq Ahmad.
(Written by Syed Shadab Ali Gillani)